Author Topic: What is up with children's books  (Read 31670 times)

TheGrimSqueaker

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What is up with children's books
« on: November 02, 2015, 03:13:04 PM »
So, I was invited to a baby shower for two of my teammates who want me to help warp their first child. They recently committed matrimony, and are cranking a kid out right on schedule.

These particular parents-to-be were expressing their preferences for books, so I decided to supplement my usual homemade gift with something to help start Baby's library. I was hoping to find a used copy of that new Sylviane Donnio book, "I Really Want To Eat a Child", which is about a frustrated young crocodile. I ran the idea past the dad-to-be at the gym while trying unsuccessfully to twist off one of his arms. He thought it would be hilarious.

The crocodile book and "Go the Fuck to Sleep" are generally great choices for a new parent. Failing that, there's always plenty of Seuss and Little Golden Books, Maurice Sendak's book about the Wild Things, and Madeline. Right?

What could possibly go wrong with that? I thought. Thus I squeaked-- grimly, of course-- into a Hastings store.

Why Hastings, you might ask? Well... they're a chain of entertainment stores with movie, game, and book sections, but the book section is sizable and they're also known for selling nearly-new "used" books at a decent discount, and if you peel off the "used" stickers they're immaculate. What happens is that children outgrow their books or are given multiple copies, and the parents bring the unused extras to stores like Hastings to sell the surplus in exchange for credit toward what they really want. So if you're a cheapass individual like me, and you like to get credit for giving new items without having to pay full retail price, you need the kind of bookstore that re-sells them.

The children's book section was not what I remembered. The vast majority of it, in fact, was merchandising for corporate zombies in training. There was shelf after shelf of books about Barbie (Mattel gets a slice), Star Wars (Lucasfilms), and various Disney product placements. The Little Golden Books, which once upon a time were a legitimate Random House production, are now an advertising vehicle for the Disney corporation and others.

I searched in vain for classics. Where was "A Child's Garden of Verses" or "The House That Jack Built"? Nowhere. Everything written before 1980 seems to have disappeared, and been replaced by deliberate merchandising designed to program children into corporate consumers. I abso-fucking-lutely refuse to pay perfectly good money for a "book" that does nothing but advertise a product, movie, or TV show. Nor am I going to pay for the privilege of indoctrinating my teammates' children into the ways of corporate zombiedom.

I found "The Little Engine that Could", but the motherfuckers have abridged it to dumb it down and make it easier to read and market. Abridged? A children's book? What kind of demented twat even thinks that's necessary? I found some miniature 4x6" versions of some Doctor Seuss classics, but they wanted $9.99 apiece for them, down from $20.

The non-corporate books were outnumbered by the corporate offerings about 3 to 1. Of the non-corporate books, nearly all were glorified 32-page paper booklets with flimsy cardboard covers, held together by two staples, and selling at $5 or more. Very few were used, because they were designed to fall apart. Each had an identical layout, with an inane, forgettable character with an alliterative name a few monosyllabic words on each page, and no plot or development to think of. So not only were the materials disposable, but the content is too!

Among the non-corporate books were a few classics, but they were jammed randomly into the shelves with no apparent regard for title or author name. It's as though they were trying as hard as they could to make the books everyone wants hard to find, while pushing spin-offs, sequels, and other overpriced rip-offs.

In the end I fled the scene with no books and ordered everything online from Amazon, where I was able to get what I wanted with free shipping. I suppose I was lucky I wasn't thrown out. But has anyone else noticed what's been happening to children's books lately? It's terrifying.

Random House has sold the fuck OUT.

justajane

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2015, 04:12:08 PM »
I agree about all the Disney/Pixar/Superhero "books" which are basically just advertising. I cringe when my boys ask me to read them at bedtime. I don't believe we have ever bought one....I take that back, sometimes at Scholastic book fairs we let them pick out one book on their own and invariably it ends up being Lego Ninjago or something else like that intended to motivate them to buy a product. But I said they could choose a cheap $5 book, so I'm not going to renege on the promise.

This reminds me of children's clothing emblazoned with large logos on it. I mean, if I want my kid to wear something with Nike or Old Navy or whatever on it, shouldn't they pay me for turning my child into a billboard? Fuck that. I refuse to pay for such clothing.

But back to books, the good ones are still printed, as you found out when you searched Amazon. I didn't read this as a child, but I absolutely love Harold and the Purple Crayon. That's a great classic. I could do without the creepy mother bunny who stalks her child all over the planet, but overall, I prefer the older stuff. That's not to say that there aren't good books written today. The Boynton books aren't terrible. Kids love them. I like them slightly less, but it wasn't written for my age bracket.

I'll tell you who I'm jealous of, though, is Mo Willems - the dude who wrote the Pigeon books. Every single damned one has the exact same formula. It probably only takes him a short time to write and illustrate them, and then he's rolling in the dough again and again and again. The formula is endless.

gooki

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2015, 04:28:50 PM »
Love the rant. I just don't go into book stores any more. It's either the library or order online.

seathink

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2015, 04:56:07 PM »
Hastings has a website and they list a lot of their used stuff. Since I discovered that I try them before Amazon. It's gohastings.com.




flamingo25

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2015, 08:49:56 PM »
As a former teacher and soon-to-be mom, I love children's books. This frustrates me as well. I'm trying my best to stock my baby's library with non-movie/Barbie/whatever books as much as possible.

Argyle

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2015, 08:56:37 PM »
Well, regular bookstores still have real books in them.  "Entertainment" stores cater to the crowd that prefers everything related to other forms of "entertainment."

Noodle

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2015, 12:04:54 PM »
There are certainly tons of corporate-branded kids books, but that is nothing new--kids' books based on branded TV or even radio characters go back way into the 20th century. Part of the issue may be your sampling location...as you say, a resale shop is where parents are getting rid of the books they don't want (or don't want the children to have). I would bet the beautiful illustrated classics are staying on the bookshelves to be passed down, while the junk is being unloaded. There are amazing children's books being published every year.

And some people just don't have good taste in kid books. My siblings were very grateful when their kids learned to read so that they could consume their own literary junk! (The librarians and reading teachers say that content matters a lot less than volume in terms of developing reading skills...)

justajane

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2015, 12:47:54 PM »
(The librarians and reading teachers say that content matters a lot less than volume in terms of developing reading skills...)

I'm glad you said that. After reading to my kindergartner a class-assigned Olivia book last night, I was discouraged. The book was just crap. And it was long. But, even as I was rolling my eyes while reading, I did come to the conclusion that the important part for my 5 year old is just hearing the words. But if we get more books like that one, I might have to complain. Usually the school does a good job providing compelling material. I'm not sure how a book based on a television episode* made it into the nighttime reading rotation.

* I realize Olivia was first a book, but this book was clearly written post-television show and based off of an episode.

cloudsail

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2015, 01:37:27 PM »
There are quality new children's picture books, you just have to look hard for them. If you add a few into your wish list, Amazon's recommendations are usually pretty solid.

To be honest though, I think I appreciate them much more than my children. They really don't care, as long as it is a book and has pictures, and is about things that they like.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2015, 03:44:18 PM »
There are quality new children's picture books, you just have to look hard for them. If you add a few into your wish list, Amazon's recommendations are usually pretty solid.

To be honest though, I think I appreciate them much more than my children. They really don't care, as long as it is a book and has pictures, and is about things that they like.

What I appreciate is not being nagged for some product, movie, or television show. A kid doesn't realize he or she is being set up to pressure other people into buying something unnecessary and overpriced... plenty of adults don't realize it either.

In other news, I checked out a "real" bookstore and the offerings aren't much different. Barnes and Noble does indeed stock a reasonable selection of hardbound classics and better-quality new books that aren't glorified advertising. Very few are used, but that's characteristic of BN. Also, the vast majority of what's on the shelves is still flimsy, disposable junk that will fall apart after a few readings. We all know babies and toddlers teethe. The Little Golden Books are still on display, but only about 5% of the titles are anything besides advertising for Disney, Mattel, or some similar corporation.

So, once again I failed to buy.

iris lily

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2015, 03:52:27 PM »
(The librarians and reading teachers say that content matters a lot less than volume in terms of developing reading skills...)

I'm glad you said that. After reading to my kindergartner a class-assigned Olivia book last night, I was discouraged. The book was just crap. And it was long. But, even as I was rolling my eyes while reading, I did come to the conclusion that the important part for my 5 year old is just hearing the words. But if we get more books like that one, I might have to complain. Usually the school does a good job providing compelling material. I'm not sure how a book based on a television episode* made it into the nighttime reading rotation.

* I realize Olivia was first a book, but this book was clearly written post-television show and based off of an episode.

I hadn't realized that Olivia had become a toy franchise. That's too bad!

I bought my little neighbor the first Olivia book way back when it was simple but attractive illustrations and Olivia was a pig girl to emulate.

Finding real book stores with decent children's books is a challenge. It's best to plan ahead and order from Amazon.

I remember driving around a few years ago, trying to find a place that sold decent children's books. I ended up at the used book store and that was fine because the kid's mom is very frugal.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2015, 11:30:44 AM by iris lily »

gimp

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2015, 04:28:48 PM »
Thanks for reminding me that I should get something for my nephew.

Spiffsome

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2015, 04:41:11 PM »
You're not going crazy, and it is a real problem. The most articulate rant on this subject that I've read:

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/twilight-of-meaning.html



La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2015, 04:42:20 PM »
There really are excellent newer books if you cut through the chaff. Some older books that you remember fondly might not have aged well (Babar is disturbingly colonialist, for instance). You can look for lists like "best picture books of 2014" or ask a librarian.

And yeah, content is not as important as student interest. There was a study showing that students who chose their own books for summer reading got more out of the program than those who were assigned books--even though the most frequently chosen book was a Frozen adaptation. (See https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/05/27/why-we-should-let-kids-choose-their-own-summer-reading-books/)

Still, that does sound like a crappy bookstore. We have lots of that crap at the library, of course, but we also have several copies of the original, full-size, beautifully illustrated Little Engine That Could.

Rage

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2015, 05:24:57 PM »
I have this same aversion to bullshit books for my kid.  The Scholastic fliers from daycare are downright offensive - a free Avengers poster if I order a book?  Fuck right off!  Disney's Inside Out marketting material disguised as books and games I can pay money for?!  Seriously?

But anyway, we've found many great kids books - Hippos Go Bersek, Little Blue Truck, Bear Snores on, Can You Hop?, My First ABC Board Book, Giraffes Can't Dance (not my favorite but it's not about Disney characters at least) - and if you search for any of those on Amazon it will suggest others that are good too (usually).

Even found a few from Scholastic - Duck on a Bike (only book about bikes for kids I could find anywhere), Bigger Digger, Alphabet Trucks.

I'm pretty pscyhotic about not allowing anything that I view to be marketting material in the house, but I'll probably lighten up as the kids get older.  But seriously though, why are there Disney diapers?  People are actively indoctrinating their kids into this like it's a religion. 

Homey The Clown

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2015, 07:50:20 PM »
Check out Mike and the Bike. There are two books. The first is shorter and fine for 2.5+, the second (with Lucille the Wheel) is a bit longer. Another good one is Good Night, Good Night Construction Site.

We somehow ended up with the abridged version of The Little Engine That Could and now have both. The short version isn't that much shorter, so I agree that's it's just dumb.

11ducks

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2015, 02:13:40 AM »
(The librarians and reading teachers say that content matters a lot less than volume in terms of developing reading skills...)

I'm glad you said that. After reading to my kindergartner a class-assigned Olivia book last night, I was discouraged. The book was just crap. And it was long. But, even as I was rolling my eyes while reading, I did come to the conclusion that the important part for my 5 year old is just hearing the words. But if we get more books like that one, I might have to complain. Usually the school does a good job providing compelling material. I'm not sure how a book based on a television episode* made it into the nighttime reading rotation.

* I realize Olivia was first a book, but this book was clearly written post-television show and based off of an episode.

Some of the class readers my DS used to bring home were just awful. I only had him read the ones he was being tested on, rest of the time we read other things- Enid Blyton, JK Rowling, Emily Rodda, Roald Dahl. He can read great and my brain wasn't liquefying from boredom..

midweststache

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2015, 06:42:25 AM »
Do you not have any independent or used bookstores in your town? Thankfully, Chicago has no shortage of these, but even in my hometown of ~40,000 there was a used bookstore or two... there are always children's books there (and, like someone already said, they're not specifically appealing to the Hastings "entertainment" crowd).

I, too, like to buy local, so maybe garage sales might be a better bet? If all else fails, used off Amazon or half.com.

I always loved the Audrey and Don Woods books as a kid. Fun stories and BEAUTIFUL artwork. "King Bidgood's in the Bathtub" is maybe my favorite children's book of all time.

MandalayVA

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #18 on: November 04, 2015, 06:54:03 AM »
There are certainly tons of corporate-branded kids books, but that is nothing new--kids' books based on branded TV or even radio characters go back way into the 20th century.

You will get rid of my copy of "The Monster at the End of This Book" only if you are able to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

/Grover from "Sesame Street"
//best Little Golden Book ever

argonaut_astronaut

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #19 on: November 04, 2015, 07:59:27 AM »
Don't be fooled into thinking that the advertising will be obvious from the cover or a company known for selling children's products. I was reading a book about farm equipment and it wasn't until the third page that I realized that ALL of the equipment was green and yellow. Once I got to the page about the farmer pulling out on The Gator(TM) that I rolled my eyes in disgust. That book has quietly made its way out of the bookshelf but I was astounded by the sneaky marketing.

GuitarStv

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #20 on: November 04, 2015, 08:21:01 AM »
There are certainly tons of corporate-branded kids books, but that is nothing new--kids' books based on branded TV or even radio characters go back way into the 20th century.

You will get rid of my copy of "The Monster at the End of This Book" only if you are able to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

/Grover from "Sesame Street"
//best Little Golden Book ever

Yes!  That's my favourite children's book from when I was little.  Great book.

partgypsy

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #21 on: November 04, 2015, 08:52:26 AM »
There are certainly tons of corporate-branded kids books, but that is nothing new--kids' books based on branded TV or even radio characters go back way into the 20th century.

You will get rid of my copy of "The Monster at the End of This Book" only if you are able to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

/Grover from "Sesame Street"
//best Little Golden Book ever

Yes!  That's my favourite children's book from when I was little.  Great book.
My youngest LOVED this book. I had to act it out with sound effects for the various page turnings. The last time I went into a corporate bookstore, it didn't even look like a bookstore to me. There was more merchandise than books being sold. I also second used bookstores and LOCALLY OWNED bookstores because they are lovingly curated and have a better selection of the classics and undiscovered gems.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #22 on: November 04, 2015, 10:43:42 AM »
Do you not have any independent or used bookstores in your town? Thankfully, Chicago has no shortage of these, but even in my hometown of ~40,000 there was a used bookstore or two... there are always children's books there (and, like someone already said, they're not specifically appealing to the Hastings "entertainment" crowd).

I, too, like to buy local, so maybe garage sales might be a better bet? If all else fails, used off Amazon or half.com.

I always loved the Audrey and Don Woods books as a kid. Fun stories and BEAUTIFUL artwork. "King Bidgood's in the Bathtub" is maybe my favorite children's book of all time.

Bookstores have trouble staying open at all in my city. I think there are a couple BN's but that's it.

I know of only two local used bookstores: one by the university which deals chiefly in used textbooks, and one on the opposite end of town. They focus mostly on mass market adult paperbacks and there are a few collection-worthy special editions (think antique). But I can often score some history or biography and they sometimes deal in out of print stuff. I haven't checked them for kids' titles but now I'm going to have to, because the curiosity will kill me otherwise.

There are several secondhand stores that accept books as donations, but I seldom see any on the shelves unless the books are damaged or nearly falling apart. I suspect that when books, CDs, DVDs, or games in good condition are donated to a secondhand shop, they get offered to one of the places that gives cash in exchange. If so, I prefer to believe that it's an authorized process, and that the money goes in the charity's till and not someone else's.

In other news, I found what I was looking for on Amazon, with a discount and free shipping.

frugalnacho

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #23 on: November 04, 2015, 11:06:11 AM »
TheGrimSqueaker sounds like a name for a squeaky, smelly fart.

I have nothing else to add to the discussion, this just popped in my head and I can't stop laughing.

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #24 on: November 04, 2015, 11:07:42 AM »
TheGrimSqueaker sounds like a name for a squeaky, smelly fart.

I have nothing else to add to the discussion, this just popped in my head and I can't stop laughing.

I squeak softly, but carry a big schtick.

iris lily

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #25 on: November 04, 2015, 11:42:36 AM »
You're not going crazy, and it is a real problem. The most articulate rant on this subject that I've read:

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/twilight-of-meaning.html


Too bad the author mixes in bashing of, the GOP with other thoughts about the decline of  analytical thought and how it's tied to reading. I might have actually read her overly wordy piece if she had not gone into tangential in gratuitous political bashes. I just skimmed it.

Back to the topic at hand, I really do worry about diminishing quality of children's picture books. If there are no physical bookstores where one can pick up beautifully illustrated children's books and flip through them, and if one doesn't go sto the youth section of the library, how will people know what is published? Online selling goes only so far, but thank god for showing excerpts of books on Amazon.

Very few people have any idea of the many many interesting and beautiful picture books published each year. Libraries buy them, not sure who,else does.

rockstache

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #26 on: November 04, 2015, 11:55:03 AM »
I love this discussion. I pick up books for my nephew at used bookstores and Amazon all the time because the stuff they sell new now is junk. I like Katy No-Pocket and Too Many Mittens best.

infogoon

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #27 on: November 04, 2015, 11:57:36 AM »
But seriously though, why are there Disney diapers?

So my kid can shit on Buzz Lightyear.

Kaspian

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #28 on: November 04, 2015, 12:12:44 PM »
Last year I went into a local toy store to buy gifts for my niece and nephew (different sex twins).   I wanted to get them both something similar but different--maybe something they could use together even.  I was absolutely horrified that pretty much everything for 'boys' was bright blue and everything for 'girls' was bright pink--cowboys/astronauts and fairies/mermaids respectively.  It was insanely gender-specific--way, way, WAY more than the 70s and 80s.  I thought we were getting away from all that nonsense but it's about 1000 times (not joking) worse than when I was a kid!  Little painting kits, models, puzzles, playsets, fake aquariums, bath toys never used to be gender-specific for God sakes.  You mean I can't buy the little girl a bug kit because it has boys all over the cover and every single part inside is masculine blue?  All the mini-cooking stuff is Barbie-pink?  When did society get so insecure about the sexuality of their kids?!  I was extrenely disappointed.

Noodle

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #29 on: November 04, 2015, 12:23:14 PM »
Last year I went into a local toy store to buy gifts for my niece and nephew (different sex twins).   I wanted to get them both something similar but different--maybe something they could use together even.  I was absolutely horrified that pretty much everything for 'boys' was bright blue and everything for 'girls' was bright pink--cowboys/astronauts and fairies/mermaids respectively.  It was insanely gender-specific--way, way, WAY more than the 70s and 80s.  I thought we were getting away from all that nonsense but it's about 1000 times (not joking) worse than when I was a kid!  Little painting kits, models, puzzles, playsets, fake aquariums, bath toys never used to be gender-specific for God sakes.  You mean I can't buy the little girl a bug kit because it has boys all over the cover and every single part inside is masculine blue?  All the mini-cooking stuff is Barbie-pink?  When did society get so insecure about the sexuality of their kids?!  I was extrenely disappointed.

Yes, no kidding. I have nieces and it is incredibly difficult to find toys that aren't branded by gender. When the girls expressed interest in a "pretend doctor" set at the usual age, the only thing their mom could find was pink and purple. She was practically holding her nose while they unwrapped it. I miss Fisher Price and primary colors... 

Back to the kids' books...the Caldecott list is a great place to go for newer picture book recommendations. Between the winner and the runners-up (Honor books) there are always several great books to pick from. Kids' graphic novels are also getting better and better. Some are commercial, of course, but the Owly and Babymouse series have been big hits in our family.

Kaspian

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #30 on: November 04, 2015, 12:28:30 PM »
Last year I went into a local toy store to buy gifts for my niece and nephew (different sex twins).   I wanted to get them both something similar but different--maybe something they could use together even.  I was absolutely horrified that pretty much everything for 'boys' was bright blue and everything for 'girls' was bright pink--cowboys/astronauts and fairies/mermaids respectively.  It was insanely gender-specific--way, way, WAY more than the 70s and 80s.  I thought we were getting away from all that nonsense but it's about 1000 times (not joking) worse than when I was a kid!  Little painting kits, models, puzzles, playsets, fake aquariums, bath toys never used to be gender-specific for God sakes.  You mean I can't buy the little girl a bug kit because it has boys all over the cover and every single part inside is masculine blue?  All the mini-cooking stuff is Barbie-pink?  When did society get so insecure about the sexuality of their kids?!  I was extrenely disappointed.

Yes, no kidding. I have nieces and it is incredibly difficult to find toys that aren't branded by gender. When the girls expressed interest in a "pretend doctor" set at the usual age, the only thing their mom could find was pink and purple. She was practically holding her nose while they unwrapped it. I miss Fisher Price and primary colors... 

Sorry to go off-topic, and I'm not a crusader by any means, but it was seriously irksome.

Really hope books haven't gone this way too. 

GuitarStv

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #31 on: November 04, 2015, 12:57:20 PM »
My son has regularly been playing with a purple and pink picnic basket for more than a year now.  It has a plastic tea set that he likes to pretend to drink from, and fake food that he pretends to eat . . . and occasionally tries to feed to our dog.  Near as I can tell, his masculinity is still intact.

:P

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #32 on: November 04, 2015, 01:20:54 PM »
My son got $5 from his grandma for Halloween. We were at Sam's, and I said he might use his money to buy a book. He picked up The Dork Diaries. I resisted the urge to inform him that this was a "girl's book." He bought it, read it, and enjoyed it. Two days later, after the girl next door eyed it and wanted to borrow it, he said, "I think the Dork Diaries are for girls and The Diaries of a Wimpy Kid are for boys." So, yes, books for elementary kids are also pretty gendered. I try to buck that trend by buying my boys Ramona Quimby and Little House. I think Anne of Green Gables will be added to the mix soon as well.


sheepstache

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #33 on: November 04, 2015, 01:39:50 PM »
No one's mentioned The Very Hungry Caterpillar yet?


A huge favorite for me was Terry Jones' Fairy Tales with beautiful illustrations by Michael Foreman.

So evocative. And the stories have the feel of real classic fairytales (some are referential, for example a children's version of the Faust story, but you don't need to know that to understand it). Interestingly it's Terry Jones from Monty Python.

Usually the school does a good job providing compelling material. I'm not sure how a book based on a television episode* made it into the nighttime reading rotation.
Wait, the school tells you what you can read to your kids at night? The fuck? I mean I understand making it a required activity and I understand having a suggested list for parents who don't know what to do, but what a parent chooses to read to their kid is very personal and important.



« Last Edit: November 04, 2015, 01:43:06 PM by sheepstache »

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #34 on: November 04, 2015, 01:47:14 PM »
What I eventually got:

(let's see if I can get the attachment tool to work)

justajane

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #35 on: November 04, 2015, 02:00:44 PM »
No one's mentioned The Very Hungry Caterpillar yet?

Usually the school does a good job providing compelling material. I'm not sure how a book based on a television episode* made it into the nighttime reading rotation.
Wait, the school tells you what you can read to your kids at night? The fuck? I mean I understand making it a required activity and I understand having a suggested list for parents who don't know what to do, but what a parent chooses to read to their kid is very personal and important.

We don't have that Eric Carle but I despise The Grouchy Ladybug by him. Funny that Carle's repetition annoys me but Dr. Seuss' entertains me. What I can't stand from Mr. Dreisel are the damned tongue twisters! My favorite Dr. Seuss is probably Thidwick the Big-hearted Moose or There's a Wocket in My Pocket. As a kid, I loved Wacky Wednesday.

For school, we get a nightly folder with a book that we have to read. Our school is pretty progressive, so some of these books have been pretty liberal about how all families look different (one mom, two moms, two dads). I don't care, since I'm open-minded and support this kind of thing, but I could see how a conservative would see it as indoctrination. This is for kindergarten. By Jan. or Feb. he will start reading to us a nightly story at his targeted reading level. This goes on until second grade. Now my 7 year old just has to read 15 minutes whatever he wants and write in his reading journal. He usually reads more like an hour for the sheer love of reading. Getting him to write in his journal, however, is like pulling teeth.

Here's a lovely book in which the main character is a house and it traces its "life" for 100 years or so.


TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #36 on: November 04, 2015, 02:12:42 PM »
I've done some digging, and am sad to announce that Little Golden Books has always been at the cutting edge of corporate product placements. It's something they're actually pretty proud of.

The corporate whoredom started in the 1950's. However, since 2002 they've been gradually phasing out the classics, until only a few are left. At this point, browsing their selection, I'd say fewer than 1 in 5 of their offerings are non-corporate now. They're not as readily available as the Mattel or Disney material, which is being pushed heavily.

http://www.randomhousekids.com/brand/little-golden-books/timeline/

You learn something new every day. Today, I learned that Little Golden Books were banned in the former Soviet Union for being too "capitalist". Although I'm never in favor of governments telling the people they serve what they can or can't buy, when I look at the Golden Books merchandising and the product placement I can see the reasoning behind the decision.

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #37 on: November 04, 2015, 03:25:09 PM »
Our school is pretty progressive, so some of these books have been pretty liberal about how all families look different (one mom, two moms, two dads)

One of these days my kid will come home with a book about the unique challenges of growing up in a family with two moms AND two dads.  But it will still be impossible to find a decent book about kids on bikes.

Shinplaster

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #38 on: November 04, 2015, 07:13:08 PM »
After reading this thread I am so glad I saved all my son's books for his future children.  "Devil in the Drain" (Daniel Pinkwater) is out of print now, and he would be heartbroken if he couldn't read that to his kids.   Also "Box of Nothing" by Peter Dickinson - fabulous book for 6-8 year olds.

sheepstache

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #39 on: November 04, 2015, 08:32:52 PM »
Wait, the school tells you what you can read to your kids at night? The fuck? I mean I understand making it a required activity and I understand having a suggested list for parents who don't know what to do, but what a parent chooses to read to their kid is very personal and important.

For school, we get a nightly folder with a book that we have to read. Our school is pretty progressive, so some of these books have been pretty liberal about how all families look different (one mom, two moms, two dads). I don't care, since I'm open-minded and support this kind of thing, but I could see how a conservative would see it as indoctrination. This is for kindergarten. By Jan. or Feb. he will start reading to us a nightly story at his targeted reading level. This goes on until second grade. Now my 7 year old just has to read 15 minutes whatever he wants and write in his reading journal. He usually reads more like an hour for the sheer love of reading. Getting him to write in his journal, however, is like pulling teeth.


I mean I'm liberal too so I would support my (hypothetical) kids getting messages like that, but reading isn't supposed to be indoctrination or instruction about what you're supposed to think. Authentic stories are disturbing and exciting, not just lessons about what family structure is okay or that bikes are a social good.

I remember my dad was very particular about which books we read and he took pleasure in picking them out. For us, it was an important way values were passed on.

I'm not knocking parents who aren't so particular. My mom wasn't the reader; she conveyed her values in other contexts. But I do think a lot of parents enjoy this freeform quality time and it seems obnoxious for the school to butt in and structure it. And isn't kindergarten around the age kids obsessively want the same book read to them night after night?

Of course, someone could always just call it regular homework and do it in the afternoon if they felt about it like I do, but I feel like the school is calling it bedtime reading because that's such an intimate, safe environment and they're trying to hitch a ride on it.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2015, 08:34:43 PM by sheepstache »

Chaplin

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #40 on: November 04, 2015, 09:15:42 PM »
I loved Richard Scarry books as a kid and have had fun with them with my own kid, but my favourite is almost impossible to find now. The story "Pierre Bear" is now apparently blacklisted because it includes hunting. This has now turned it into a collector's item - I haven't looked in a while, but a few years ago I think I saw it on eBay for $80.

justajane

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #41 on: November 05, 2015, 05:26:55 AM »
Of course, someone could always just call it regular homework and do it in the afternoon if they felt about it like I do, but I feel like the school is calling it bedtime reading because that's such an intimate, safe environment and they're trying to hitch a ride on it.

I don't disagree. Although they call it "guided reading", it usually happens at bedtime, in large part because we have three who still go to bed around 7 p.m. The eldest reads in bed until 8 p.m. But it's hard to carve out time from 5-7 to read before bedtime so that we can then read what we want at 7 p.m.

The school is probably approaching it from the assumption that families aren't necessarily reading in the evenings. As a public institution, they also can't assume that a family has a robust children's library from which to choose quality books. I wonder what the actual statistics are on how many parents read to their children everyday.

There is the other option that I don't read the book and sign it as if we did. And then just read whatever I want. But I tend to be a rule-follower, even if I think it's a semi-stupid rule, so that would take some overriding of my natural inclinations there. Last night I skipped half the book, though. It was a collection of school-themed poems that I thought were way too advanced for a 5 year old.

Kaspian

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #42 on: November 05, 2015, 11:21:02 AM »
My son got $5 from his grandma for Halloween. We were at Sam's, and I said he might use his money to buy a book. He picked up The Dork Diaries. I resisted the urge to inform him that this was a "girl's book." He bought it, read it, and enjoyed it. Two days later, after the girl next door eyed it and wanted to borrow it, he said, "I think the Dork Diaries are for girls and The Diaries of a Wimpy Kid are for boys." So, yes, books for elementary kids are also pretty gendered. I try to buck that trend by buying my boys Ramona Quimby and Little House. I think Anne of Green Gables will be added to the mix soon as well.

Really, really good of you to get him that book!  Not cool that society was somehow eventually going to try and correct him anyway though.  We did have sort of the same thing a long time ago with "Hardy Boys" versus "Nancy Drew" books, I guess.  It just seems so marked now?  Years ago one of my nephews really wanted an Easy Bake Oven.  Family was surprised the toy had changed from the long-standing yellow to neon pink.  There was some parental debate about it.  They eventually managed to find him a "Spooky Bake Oven" at Christmas.   It came in neon green and all the pie pans had the shapes of insects.  :/

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #43 on: November 05, 2015, 11:57:20 AM »
This thread has prompted me to ask my parents to bring, on their next visit, some of my childhood books and toys for my toddler.  I find the pink/blue divide at the toy store ridiculous, and though we are regular library users, a few non-commercial, non-sex specific books to own would be nice.

justajane: a few weeks ago I scored a copy of Fox in Socks (Dr. Seuss) for free at the library used book sale (librarian felt the binding was too damaged to charge me the $2.) Surprisingly hard the first few times. Easier and faster after the 30th time. DD loves it.

justajane

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #44 on: November 05, 2015, 12:56:48 PM »
justajane: a few weeks ago I scored a copy of Fox in Socks (Dr. Seuss) for free at the library used book sale (librarian felt the binding was too damaged to charge me the $2.) Surprisingly hard the first few times. Easier and faster after the 30th time. DD loves it.

That's the one that was giving me conniptions the other night! But, like you said, it was for lack of practice and also due to the fact that I had a sore throat. You are right about the repetition and also just growing in your ability to read more and more prose. I remember when my first was around two and I started reading the full versions of classics like Green Eggs and Ham. I thought, "Hell, this is two long!" It felt like an eternity. Now I don't think twice about reading aloud for 20 minutes or more. It is a learned art.

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #45 on: November 05, 2015, 06:44:18 PM »
Maybe I'm just out in left field, but I have NO PROBLEM finding loads of wonderful children's books.  I just bought my preschool niece a lovely book for her birthday, and it isn't a Disney (or similar) book.  It isn't even a cartoon book.  I found so many nice books that I had a hard time choosing and I went ahead and bought her another to save for Christmas.  And a couple more books for my two nephews. 

I'm not saying the "Disney shorts" weren't right there too, but I found plenty of wonderful books. 

Jack

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #46 on: November 06, 2015, 08:12:01 AM »
After reading this thread I am so glad I saved all my son's books for his future children.  "Devil in the Drain" (Daniel Pinkwater) is out of print now, and he would be heartbroken if he couldn't read that to his kids.   Also "Box of Nothing" by Peter Dickinson - fabulous book for 6-8 year olds.

This thread makes me glad that (as far as I know) my mom still has all my old children's books (and that I never got rid of my older-child/adolescent/young-adult books -- "Encyclopedia Brown" and "My Teacher is an Alien" FTW!).

Some older books that you remember fondly might not have aged well (Babar is disturbingly colonialist, for instance).

But that's the hilarious part! I also enjoy going back and watching old Looney Tunes and thinking "holy shit, old people complain about things like violent video games but they let us watch that?!" Some of those old cartoons are banned from broadcast to this day for being too racist (mostly WWII propaganda cartoons, or the ones with blackface characters) and/or violent (like the one where Daffy Duck commits suicide)...

Last year I went into a local toy store to buy gifts for my niece and nephew (different sex twins).   I wanted to get them both something similar but different--maybe something they could use together even.  I was absolutely horrified that pretty much everything for 'boys' was bright blue and everything for 'girls' was bright pink--cowboys/astronauts and fairies/mermaids respectively.  It was insanely gender-specific--way, way, WAY more than the 70s and 80s.  I thought we were getting away from all that nonsense but it's about 1000 times (not joking) worse than when I was a kid!  Little painting kits, models, puzzles, playsets, fake aquariums, bath toys never used to be gender-specific for God sakes.  You mean I can't buy the little girl a bug kit because it has boys all over the cover and every single part inside is masculine blue?  All the mini-cooking stuff is Barbie-pink?  When did society get so insecure about the sexuality of their kids?!  I was extrenely disappointed.

Yes, no kidding. I have nieces and it is incredibly difficult to find toys that aren't branded by gender. When the girls expressed interest in a "pretend doctor" set at the usual age, the only thing their mom could find was pink and purple. She was practically holding her nose while they unwrapped it. I miss Fisher Price and primary colors... 

Why not just buy them actual stuff? Skip the "play cooking" and just get them a Lodge 6" cast-iron skillet, a small saucepan, etc. Skip the "pretend doctor" set and just find a cheap real stethoscope on Ebay. Skip the "bug kit" (whatever that is) and just buy a... net and a Mason jar, I guess?

TheGrimSqueaker

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #47 on: November 06, 2015, 08:28:42 AM »
Why not just buy them actual stuff? Skip the "play cooking" and just get them a Lodge 6" cast-iron skillet, a small saucepan, etc. Skip the "pretend doctor" set and just find a cheap real stethoscope on Ebay. Skip the "bug kit" (whatever that is) and just buy a... net and a Mason jar, I guess?

This is one thing my parents did that was 100% brilliant.

Once my brother and I were old enough to express an interest, they bought us actual toolboxes and filled them with actual tools, sized small for little hands. I don't think I have the toolbox anymore, but I still have a couple of those little tools because they do the job for small things around the house. A weensy hammer, for example, is perfect for hanging a picture. But they couldn't possibly have cost much more than the toy versions, and knowing my dad they would have cost a lot less (sale shopping, flea markets, buying used, etc.)

I also remember a small pie plate and a little rolling pin for the kitchen action, and a craft kit with actual needles and thread so that we really did learn to sew on buttons or patch jeans. I think I still have that wicker box.

Kitsune

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #48 on: November 06, 2015, 09:04:46 AM »
Why not just buy them actual stuff? Skip the "play cooking" and just get them a Lodge 6" cast-iron skillet, a small saucepan, etc. Skip the "pretend doctor" set and just find a cheap real stethoscope on Ebay. Skip the "bug kit" (whatever that is) and just buy a... net and a Mason jar, I guess?

This is one thing my parents did that was 100% brilliant.

Once my brother and I were old enough to express an interest, they bought us actual toolboxes and filled them with actual tools, sized small for little hands. I don't think I have the toolbox anymore, but I still have a couple of those little tools because they do the job for small things around the house. A weensy hammer, for example, is perfect for hanging a picture. But they couldn't possibly have cost much more than the toy versions, and knowing my dad they would have cost a lot less (sale shopping, flea markets, buying used, etc.)

I also remember a small pie plate and a little rolling pin for the kitchen action, and a craft kit with actual needles and thread so that we really did learn to sew on buttons or patch jeans. I think I still have that wicker box.

That does work really well, especially for tools and sewing and whatnot (and for the record: there are pictures of me hammering nails with my dad, and I was 4. Kids are super-capable of doing things, we just have to let and guide them!)

My 18-month-old daughter is convinced that being left out of the kitchen is Absolutely Unfair, and only wants to Help ('do you want to help?' is the way to get her to do ANYTHING.) We're not getting her a cast-iron skillet (because she is still very little and drops things a lot and I don't want a cast iron skillet on a bare toe), but she's getting usable kitchen tools for her play kitchen, with the idea that they can also transition into the real kitchen. My mom did that with me - she'd bake a cake, and I'd bake a little cake next to her. Teaching life skills!

With regards to books, though: UGH to the gendered BS, the marketing BS, and just generally UGH. *sigh* You CAN find good books, but you have to look for them. Based on my daughter's recent favorites, 'Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site' is a solid winner (matches her recent obsession with trucks), as is 'Red is Best', 'The Very Busy Spider', 'Olivia' (the original book, not the TV spinoffs), 'Chu's Day', and a bunch of other older books, for various reasons... none of which are specifically gendered or full of marketing material, which is lovely. The easiest way to find good books is to find blogs focussed on recommending children's books and going from there, and you can usually get them super-cheap online for the cost of shipping. It takes some searching, though.

RetiredAt63

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Re: What is up with children's books
« Reply #49 on: November 06, 2015, 07:04:19 PM »
DD is all grown up now, but you are reminding me of all our bedtime reading. 

Robert Munsch - she loved his books
Berenstain Bears - preachy, but good
Paper Bag Princess, of course
My Mother is Weird
For slightly older children:
Narnia
Old British books - like books by E. Nesbit (I want to meet a Psammead), Arthur Ransome - fun, good vocabulary, assume children have brains and like doing things.  I loved his Swallows and Amazons - girls and boys doing fun things without helicopter parents, in 1929, imagine!  And sailing!

I found she enjoyed listening to books that were well above her reading level - one of the joys of reading to our children is that they realize there are these great books out there that they can read on their own, once they figure reading out.  DD was always reading 2-3 grade levels higher (just like her Mom).

Of course the downside to having readers in the family is that they read - instead of doing homework, chores, etc.  And they read things you might not want them to - I read Stranger in a Strange Land at 16 (and haven't killed anyone yet, although I do have a list) - my parents would have been shocked.